Barack Obama – the Great Tinkerer

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“They, you know, were mad at FDR when he started Social Security. They were mad at Lyndon Johnson when he started Medicare. And, you know, I think that the fact that this has become such a heated debate, is a sign that we’re really trying to change the system. That we’re not just tinkering around the edges,”

Time for some fact-checking, I think.

The ‘Committee of Economic Security’ was created in 1934 to investigate means of providing for the elderly and disabled – two groups that the Great Depression was hitting hard. In 1935, the Social Security Act was passed and signed. It took less then 4 years for politicians to begin tampering with it. In 1939, it shifted from an individual worker-based program to a family program with the addition of survivor benefits. Social security moved from a retirement supplemental plan to a term life insurance plan. Problems with Social Security should have been noticed in 1942. One of the first recipients contributed $23.00 into the system and began to take in $22,000 in benefits over the rest of her life.

1950 saw COLA – Cost of Living Increases. In 1961, the minimum retirement age was lowered. In 1972, Social Security became an automated juggernaut. COLA increases were automatic, automatic increases were programmed into the system, and – in an attempt to fix their earlier mistake – Congress promised increased benefits for those waiting to retire at 65 – the original goal.

Now, Social Security is in crisis. According to a report of the Trustees of the Social Security Fund, Social Security begins running in the red in 2018. By 2033, it will be over $300 billion in the hole and will be bankrupt.

What did we do before Social Security? We took care of our neighbors – as individuals. Father McGivney began the Knights of Columbus as a means of helping Catholic men and their families. And we did – and continue to do so. Newcomers to the United States would be welcomed by their countrymen who came before. Churches and neighborhoods were the ‘grassroots’ agency of social services and reform. Even in the depths of the Depression, religious and local community groups took care of those in need. Roosevelt’s initiatives were the first overtly socialist acts designed to supplant good works with Government. The New Deal programs actually did not lift us out of the depression – indeed, there is compelling evidence that suggests that the New Deal deepened the length and severity of the economic crisis. It was WW II that sparked a demand for goods and services. The need for major amounts of war materials combined with calls to duty and patriotism was the magic bullet that killed the Depression.

One can judge the qualities of a program by those who oppose it. The New Deal was opposed by Huey Long and Father Coughlin. When the ‘KingFish’ criticized a program as being too corrupt and favoring special interest, people should have taken notice. Father Coughlin – a man who supported FDR in his early years – would be outraged that these reforms would never make it to the common people; they only benefitted bankers.

“The great betrayer and liar, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promised to drive the money changers from the temple, had succeeded [only] in driving the farmers from their homesteads and the citizens from their homes in the cities. . . I ask you to purge the man who claims to be a Democrat, from the Democratic Party, and I mean Franklin Double-Crossing Roosevelt.”

Coughlin was convinced the New Deal was more of a program to support the incumbents in Congress and the White House. That the programs and the millions of dollars were going to secure patronage and support in upcoming elections. The Citizen thinks of the recipients of the TARP money, whose campaigns they have supported, and where the money from the Stimulus Act of 2009 has gone thus far. The average person may be unaware that a substantial amount of money won’t be released until 2010. I am sure early 2010, so the Democratic majority can have lots of money to ‘bring home the bacon’ to key districts. Yes, President Obama has learned from Roosevelt – learned how to use the People’s money to advance his personal agenda.

Even the Supreme Court would clash with Roosevelt’s policies, claiming that he was dangerously contravening the Constitution. This would inspire Roosevelt to try to pack the court, increasing the size in order to seat his own cronies.

Johnson. History will remember Johnson as the Great Architect of Big Government. His should be the Face of Big Brother. His was a most dangerous desire. Kennedy’s drive and ambition saw the American flag on the moon in less then a decade. Johnson felt that a nation that is so powerful, so wealthy should be able to end poverty. He was wrong. And countless millions have paid the price of a life of apathetic poverty since that act was passed.

It was an ambitious program, creating agencies that dwarfed the scope of the New Deal. The cornerstone was the ‘war on poverty’. What fruits have been born from the tree Johnson planted?

Welfare has cost $3 trillion in 25 years. The complex bureaucracies consume tremendous amounts of this money. Public housing has become a generational legacy. My grandparents passed their home down to their children – homes that were the product of hard work and sacrifice by these immigrants from the ‘Old Country’. Many of our poor children have been raised in public housing and their legacy is the day they apply for their own subsidized housing vouchers. AFDC – Aid to Families with Dependent Children – has created a culture of single motherhood. While we certainly don’t want children to suffer for their parent’s poor choices, AFDC has created a sub-culture that has actually promoted the abandonment of the traditional two-parent family. While AFDC has it’s roots in FDR, it is Johnson’s ‘Great’ Society that allowed to flourish.

The greatest tragedy of these massive social programs is they both allow the common citizen to ignore their neighbor in need. I work with a lot of well-educated liberals. Often when I discuss a social problem, they will smugly assert that there are ‘government programs’ that address those issues. They would rather pay higher taxes to support massive government programs than to have to actually see the face of poverty that dwells among them. Let the government take care of the faceless masses – it’s easier. The alternative is to become involved on a local level – and that’s too much of a bother. Too much of a commitment. Let the government tend to those things. It’s easier.

That is what Barak Obama wants to hear. Big government programs– once they achieve a certain momentum – are impossible to stop. With all it’s problems and warts, how can we just end Social Security? It’s ‘too big to fail’. End public housing? AFDC? The social and economic costs of ending these massive entitlement programs are too terrible to comprehend. Even reforming them will be difficult. And this administration wants to add to these massive programs – and create some new ones.

People aren’t fighting President Obama because he is trying to reform this country. People are fighting him because he is trying to perpetuate a socialist agenda seventy years in the crafting. We have already seen the cost of the FDR-Johnson ‘reforms’. A society that has de-emphasized personal responsibility. Programs that seek to destabilize the traditional family. A sharp decline in participation in religious and local community service organizations. A populace that will be enthralled to the Will of the State.

For almost a century, men have sought to replace God with Government. They try to shame good people who resist them by throwing the poor and needy in our face. Don’t let them. Christ told us that the poor will always be with us. He told us that it was our duty to help those in need. Directly, not through checking a box or payroll tax withholdings. When poverty and need have a face and name, people will be compelled to help. When poverty and need are simply the faceless, nameless masses of the ‘poor’ who are clients of the state, they remain nothing more than abstract numbers. Don’t let the government rob you of your opportunity to be a Disciple.


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